My Google Alerts brought me this interesting piece by a clinical psychologist on a website called Aleteia:
As we seek wisdom from authors--past and present--what knowledge about their lives would "disqualify" them in your estimation?
Here are a couple of my disqualifiers:
In a used bookstore in Los Angeles, I once happened across several books by a famous American "psychic," as we tended to label all with various spiritual gifts back then. A couple of the books had my interest--one purporting to be communications from the deceased Arthur Ford, as I recall. I read it with interest. Then I picked up the one that was her predictions for the next decade. Well the book was already old when I bought it--several decades old. And her predictions had been wrong down the line. I couldn't trust her after that, though it's possible that she can communicate with the dead, but can't predict the future, I suppose.
I also find it hard to trust a writer who misuses history as a tool to make their points. It most often appears in a sentence that starts with something like "Our Founding Fathers believed...." and ends with nonsense formulated to support a particular political or spiritual view. No footnotes, of course.
First, concerning Thomas Merton: Human frailty can exist even in "spiritual guides." Augustine famously acknowledged his own. Mahatma Gandhi slept naked with young girls, supposedly to test his strength of resolve. Part of spiritual growth is to get over the idea that other men and women, however inspiring they may be, are perfect and can inherently be relied on to dispense the truth that the individual has to discover for himself.
A disqualifier for me is being an egotist and braggart, which is what I consider the ever-popular James Van Praagh. I read one of his books about his readings. Time after time he informs us of how breathlessly astonished his sitters were at the accuracy of his readings. A very few seemed to be wrong ... but then he lets us know that in the end it was found that he was correct, even if his information was only confirmed later!
I know what you mean about Ruth Montgomery's predictions. I had a similar experience with a book by Joseph McMoneagle, said to be an extremely talented remote viewer. An appendix to his book (already 10 or 15 years old) listed his predictions as of the publication date. They were almost all mistaken.
Why is it necessarily misusing history to say, "Our Founding Fathers believed ... "? Of course they differed on many points, but they got their heads together to create a document called the United States Constitution. It still exists even though we have a president and many others who ignore it, and can be considered a primary source. For Founders' beliefs not included in the Constitution, you may disagree with what someone says they were or feel their case is overstated, but that does not automatically make them "nonsense."
I agree completely. If a mentor has no flaws, they might not understand me enough to teach me anything.
On the Founding Fathers issue--I meant I disqualify someone who follows "Our Found Fathers believed" with nonsense--not that everyone does. But come election time, many will. It's a hard season for historians. ;)
When you mentioned "Feet of Clay" I first thought you meant Anthony Storr's book. It is an excellent read. I highly recommend it.
Most people do not realize that as the ego is diminished, it is peeled back in the reverse sequence that it was created. Thus, the attributes of puberty are some of the last issues addressed. This is why sexual issues are often the last experienced prior to experiencing transcendence.
I do not have a problem with teachers or gurus who have made mistakes. Often I thank them and feel extreme gratitude for them allowing me to learn by observing their mistakes rather than replicating the experience myself. I make mistakes and if I learned from all of them I would be a genius!!!
The greatest difficulty I have with gurus is when they formulate their individual identity as a teacher and survive by holding on to the student's energy rather than reaching within to a higher level. Never ever hold on to the gifts or abilities as to do so is to hinder further spiritual growth. Many gurus are merely collecting high volumes of low level energy and using it to impress others. This is spiritual poison.
The gurus who really know the future have no need to share it. They see the future as oncoming experiences necessary for soul growth and not as impending disaster. The greatest difficulty is that anyone can tap into beings on the other side who can provide information, but few people can go direct to source. This ability to go to source is necessary as utilizing an intermediary for information is subject to the motive of the intermediary. If a person does not have discernment, it is dangerous.
Very true. The need to believe in the intermediaries as all-knowing, rather than recognizing them as people with filters and sometimes ulterior motives, leads many to disillusionment--discounting the larger truth due to the faulty messengers.
I wonder, also, if we all have to wade through a lot of the mess and disillusionment before we have a sophisticated enough mind to distinguish value in books from marketable claptrap.
I also wonder if I sometimes bypass a valuable book because a publisher has slapped on a cover that looks like marketable claptrap/sensationalism.
I second your recommendation of Anthony Storr's Feet of Clay. It speaks clearly and discerningly about the human need to follow teachers while avoiding due evaluation and suppressing doubts. Storr's writing style is easy to follow but not simplistic, in Feet of Clay and a couple of his other books I've read.
Sounds like a good one!
Amazon has lots of Storr's "Feet of Clay" at 1 cent plus $3.99 shipping for the used good condition hardcover edition. I just ordered an extra copy to give to a friend.
I'll get mine today! Thanks, Lee.